CREATIVE SYDNEY: Songs of Sydney – MCA (12.06.09)

As Sydney’s groundbreaking Vivid festival draws to a close, tonight marked the end of the Creative Sydney portion of the event, during which some of Sydney’s finest artists came together to showcase the musical talent of the city. The event, appropriately named “Songs of Sydney”.

How this worked (in fast-moving fashion), was that a house band – comprised of Lindsay McDougall (Triple J, Frenzal Rhomb), Cec Condon (The Mess Hall), Sam Worrad (The Holy Soul) and Cameron Bruce (Waikiki, The Beautiful Girls) – were joined on stage by a potpourri of Sydney and Australian singers and songwriters, performing a mix of their own songs, personal favourites and more often than not, songs about the city itself.

Spod popped on first, complete with shiny things, streamers and confetti, which were often reused by later performers. For this appearance, he sung his own track “2131”, about his favourite part of Sydney: Ashfield. Indeed, never a man to shy away from a bit of fun, and tonight was no exception.

Peter Head came on next to perform “King of the Cross” and “William St Blues” (guess which part of Sydney these songs were about?), joined on stage by his daughter and granddaughter (Loene Carmen and Holiday Sidewinder, respectively). 3 generations of Australian singers/songwriters? Well such a showcase was what tonight was all about. The two younger generations followed their patriarch, performing classics from such artists as Australian Crawl (“Reckless”) and Cold Chisel. Ironically, it was Holiday who has perhaps become the well known of the three, as lead singer of Sydney’s fantastic Bridezilla.

Armed with electric zylophones, Sui Zhen performed “Buried in Trouble”, a cover of a song by Bluebottle Kiss lead singer, Jamie Hutchins, as well as Go-Between’s “Streets of Your Town”. She was an absolutely beautiful singer, and was easily a surprise highlight of the night. Personally I’d never heard the name. But no surprise was the talent of Sarah Kelly (redsunband) who followed, performing a Paul Kelly number.

Now it took some clever sluthing post-gig to work out where I’d seen the next artist “Tom Ugly” before. You might remember him as part of [is], and as 2008’s winner of the Triple J ‘Unearthed High’ competition. Not a bad singer, but the cover of “Come Together” by the Beatles was an arguably strange (albeit always enjoyable) choice, which was definitely made up for with You Am I’s “Purple Sneakers”. His reason for choosing the former, apparently, was that it was the first song he performed live in Sydney.

But it was Dave Rennick (Dappled Cities) who stole the show, with a surprisingly moving and powerful version of “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”. Definitely the highlight of the night – I hope there’s some video of it floating around! Tim from Dappled was the poor sucker who had to follow that, but in performing an highly energetic version of “Darling it Hurts” by Paul Kelly, he played the role with ease. Loved it.

Simon Day of Ratcat performed “City of Sydney” next, and Old Man River gave us Richard Clapton’s “Girls on the Avenue” shortly after. Commercialised indeed, but he’s always a stand out performer. It was the rock and roll of Dave Graney who ended the night in style, however, with some epic, and classic, Radio Birdman jamming. But not before the Brag DJs kept the vibe going well into the night, leading Creative Sydney to a close.

For those who hadn’t looked at the Creative Sydney website, this would have been a night of surprises – and for the rest, a pretty honest showing of the music and artists this city has produced. Not bad if I do say so myself, even if it was solely the Dappled performances which really remain embedded in my memory banks. But more to the point, where else could you see this many artists performing a 2 hour show, completely for free? Indeed. Not bad at all.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.